Sunday, February 27, 2011

Blood and Honey

The hardest part about today's canning project was evicting a purring Oolong from my lap so I could head out to Lisa's house. This week, Honey Blood Orange Slices and Grenadine.

Honey Blood Orange Slices based on a recipe from Happy Girl Kitchen Co.  

5 1/2 cinnamon sticks
1 T of cloves
5 pounds blood oranges, cut into slices (The oranges I purchased were virtually seedless, but if they ave seeds, remove and discard)
water (to cover oranges in a pan)
2 1/2 cups of sugar
2 1/2 cups of honey
1/3 cup lemon juice

In a non-reactive pot, combine the oranges with water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and boil gently peel is tender, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile in a separate pot. combine the sugar, honey and lemon juice. Heat until sugar is dissolved and transfer oranges with a slotted spoon. Add the spices. Add 1 1/2 cups of your orange water.  Boil gently until orange slices are well glazed, about 40 minutes.
Prepare the canner. Using a slotted spoon, pack hot oranges into your jars, leaving slightly more than 1/ inch headspace. Ladle hot syrup into the jar to cover oranges. Wipe rim and put on lids. process 10 minutes.

4 pints and 2 quarts oranges,  plus 2 pints of the syrup.

Spiced Grenadine recipe from the SF Chronicle can be found here Do-it-yourself Cocktail Ingredients .
Because Lisa has a love of the Scofflaw cocktail, we were able to do a taste test with Stirrings, a commercial brand, the Small Hand artisan product and our homemade recipe. Stirrings was much milder and very sweet, probably perfect for a Shirley Temple. The Small Hand version was intensely pomegranate. Our homemade version was rather adult, wit a strong spiced flavor. Next time, we may cut down a bit on the star anise.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Playing Hooky at Hirsch

Sometimes you just need a mental health day. For me, that was early February. I was tried and cranky and really no fun at all. So, wisely, I took a day off and headed to the Sonoma Coast. Way up the coast, to visit Ross Cobb at Hirsch. I've known Ross for a few years, enjoying his Flowers pinots but also his Cobb Wines. Now Ross is winemaker at Hirsch and is also making his Cobb Wines there as well.

Directions to Hirsch included the phrase, turn left and drive 40-50 miles west. Also the warning that once past Petaluma, there was likely to be no cell phone reception. Indeed, there was not. Much to y delight, I even had a bobcat sighting on the way up. I pulled over and we stared at each other for several minutes until the cat ambled up the hill. Otherwise put, Hirsch is on the far coast.

Hirsch Vineyards was established in 1980 on a ridge overlooking the ocean at Fort Ross. Their website says that: Hirsch Winery was set up in 2002 specifically to learn more about the site. Here winemaking is an extension of viticulture: the link in the chain of winegrowing where grapes, the true wealth of the land, are transformed by native yeasts (the real winemakers!) and heat into wine. The winery, set in the middle of our 1100-acre ranch, serves as the “eye” that monitors and processes the fruits of each vintage without the use of techniques and additives that filter out and distort the quintessence of the site. Due to the highly variegated soils and exposures of each vineyard and the constantly changing climate, the characteristics of the fruit will vary from vintage to vintage; but the underlying structural complexity is always there. We have learned to pay close attention to the individual sites and to taste the wines from every block (unblended until bottling) to permit the received information to guide us in our winemaking practices.

I arrived around 11 in the morning and had a chance to say hi to both David and Jasmine Hirsch before heading out with Ross to admire the vines and views. Their website has better pictures than I could ever take and also has a block map that is worth a look.

We then headed back to the winery to barrel taste both Hirsch 09s and 10s pinots as well as some of Ross's Cobb Wines as well. I must admit that I'm far from an expert at barrel tasting. Every time I have done it, it has been rushed and I felt uncertain about where the wines were going. I nod, hoping that I look knowledgeable, but I expect I just appear foolish.

This time, we tasted both individual blocks but also some blends as well. We talked about barrels and toasts and the process he goes through while deciding on his blends. He talked about how as he has become more experienced as a winemaker he has become increasingly non-interventionist, demonstrating this by letting me taste a reductive barrel that smelled much like sulfur or  burnt matches. However, with some time and swirling, that faded and was replaced by floral scents. He mentioned that as a young winemaker he would have felt a need to experiment to fix the barrel, but now he had the confidence to wait and see. There is such an education in this type of tasting. To see how blends are made but also to see how the barrels from the same sites differed between 09 and 10.

We also tasted a few of Ross's Cobb Wines, the Jack Hill and the Coastlands Diane Cobb. Although yields were low due to the challenging 2010 growing season, the results were excellent. As I've mentioned before, Coastlands is always one of my favorites and I look forward to the 2010 version.

Friday, February 18, 2011


So I have about 10 half written blog posts. But I also have Violet begging to play some more with the bird toy. This week, Violet wins. Fingers crossed for us that her buddy will be able to come home this weekend.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


So charcutepalooza! What is it? Well, a year of meat. Details can be found here: Mrs. Wheelbarrow but basically it is a year of kitchen adventures based on recipes in Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michael Ruhlman. 

Bloggers from around the country have embarked upon the challenge. Most, in fact, started off in January with duck prosciutto. But given the craziness of my month, I started this month with the very simple homemade bacon. Simple as in I walked 1/2 a block to my local butcher, Drewe's, told them what I was up to, they sorted through their pork bellies and found one they considered the best for the project. I then walked the 1/2 block back home, covered my pork with pink salt, put it in a large plastic bag and added some maple and black pepper for flavor. The bag then went in my fridge to be turned every day or so. After a week, I took it out of the fridge and roasted it in the oven. After it cooled slightly, I sliced it and put it in the freezer for future projects. Active work time? Maybe 10 minutes or so.

My first use of the bacon was in a frittata with my favorite eggs from Omnivore Books and  onions from my Mariquita Mystery Box.

Today I was slightly more ambitious and made black bean soup with some beautiful Rancho Gordo beans, more veggie box items and some peppers from the Ferry Building.

Black Bean and Homemade Bacon Soup

1 lb Rancho Gordo Midnight beans, soaked overnight
6 cups vegetable stock, chicken stock or water
3 spring onions chopped
1 bunch green garlic chopped
5 mixed peppers, chopped
1/2 bunch parsley, minced
1 teaspoon cayenne
salt and pepper to taste

Cook beans in liquid of choice until tender.
In a large pan, saute bacon until it is cooked, but still somewhat soft. Add onions, green garlic, and peppers. Cook until onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add parsley. Add beans and stock or water. Simmer for several hours. Perhaps even make a cake. At this point you can puree half or all of the soup in a blender or serve as is.

By the way, while the soup was simmering, K and I made a cake. Note happy child and creative frosting job!